NAIROBI, KENYA – Pharis was only 13 years old when he survived a terrifying rape by a man he thought was a “Good Samaritan.” But with help from local police and IJM Kenya, he can now live in peace: This week, the man who attacked him was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“This conviction was not only a success for my grandson,” Pharis’ grandmother said joyfully, “but for other boys who could have been abused if [this man] was set free.”
Betrayed by a Stranger
Pharis’ frightening ordeal began late one night in 2012, when he had traveled across the city to visit a friend. Tired from the journey, the boy was resting at a shopping kiosk when an older man offered to rent him a room at a small hotel nearby.
Naïve and exhausted, Pharis accepted.
When Pharis awoke in the morning and tried to leave, this “Good Samaritan” suddenly became violent. He raped the 13-year-old repeatedly and threatened to kill him when he screamed for help.
Pharis eventually broke free and ran to a police station down the street. Officers quickly returned to the hotel and arrested his attacker just before he could escape.
Police brought Pharis for medical care at a clinic run by an international NGO, and he was later reunited with his family. Pharis’ grandmother had no money for a lawyer, but one officer knew about IJM Kenya’s work defending children and helped them report their story for the help they desperately needed.
“Pharis’ case was shocking, but we were so encouraged by the swift action of the police,” says IJM Legal Assistant Samuel Karanja. “Had they not immediately taken notice of this poor boy’s cries for help, the perpetrator could have eluded the law within seconds.”
Brave Testimony Overcomes Obstacles
IJM lawyers worked with police to document evidence, and then supported the public prosecutor in preparing the case for court. IJM social workers were by Pharis’ side at the trial, helping to ensure the experience did not unnecessarily traumatize the boy. Pharis was ready to share the truth about the assault before the judge in 2012.
Even with his strong testimony, Pharis’ case was an uphill battle. Court hearings were delayed over and over for two years because the judge was so overscheduled with cases. Then, one of the key witnesses—the police officer who caught the man at the hotel—did not appear to testify, and IJM worried that losing this key witness would harm the case.
Obstacles like these often force impoverished families in Kenya to give up their cases, but IJM worked with Pharis’ family to stay strong. Their years of persistence paid off. On March 10, 2014, the judge found the man who raped Pharis guilty and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Because of Pharis’ courageous voice, other boys will never have to fear this man again.
Safe in School and Healing
Today, Pharis is doing well at a boarding school, where he says his favorite activities are drama classes and Sunday school. On breaks from school, he lives with his grandmother and sisters. IJM aftercare staff will work with him over these breaks as he continues to heal.